Sinking of S.S. Tuscania

From The Dreadnought Project
Jump to: navigation, search

The Sinking of S.S. Tuscania was a major tragedy in America's involvement in the Great War. This narrative is very slightly adapted from that of American researcher Marilyn Gahm.[1]

The Sinking

Eight Royal Navy destroyers – H.M.S. Badger, Beagle, Grasshopper, Harpy, Minos, Mosquito, Pigeon and Savage – joined trans-Atlantic convoy HX20 led by the armoured cruiser H.M.S. Cochrane on 4 February 1918. The convoy included twelve supply ships and troopships carrying American and Canadian troops to Liverpool. In the convoy was Anchor Line’s S.S. Tuscania.

On the evening of 5 February 1918 as the convoy was traversing the North Channel between Rathlin and Islay islands, Tuscania was torpedoed by UB 77, under the command of captain Wilhelm Meyer. The majority of the Allied convoy sped off as was standard practice in the event of a submarine attack as the Mosquito (under command of Thomas Balfour Fellowes), then the Grasshopper (John Morrison Smith) and then the Pigeon (Christopher John Francis Eddis) returned to rescue American troops and British crewmen from the troopship as they slid down ropes to the decks of the destroyers. Survivors were also picked up from lifeboats and from the water. Pigeon lowered its whaler, which, under the direction of Chief Petty Officer John Newton Jones, gathered eleven lifeboats, carrying 375 men.

In the final rough tally, Mosquito saved approximately 300 men, Grasshopper 500 to 600, and Pigeon more than 800 men from the sinking troopship.

S.S. Tuscania was the first troopship carrying American soldiers sunk in World War I, and the only troop transport carrying American troops sunk while under the protection of British destroyers.

For their actions, captains Eddis, Fellowes and Smith were voted medals by the National Tuscania Survivors Association in 1931, in gratitude for the heroism and generosity demonstrated during the lifesaving operation and its aftermath. Eddis’s medal was awarded posthumously, as he had died of influenza in the final weeks of the War. At its 1933 meeting, the National Tuscania Survivors Association honored C.P.O. Jones with a medal.


An imposing tower is erected on Islay Island to remember American contributions and loss of life, particularly in Tuscania and Otranto.

As some of the American soldiers were from nearby towns, the city of Baraboo, Wisconsin, is currently raising $90,000 to build what they think is the only monument in the U.S. to the Tuscania. The focus of the monument is two-fold – to remember those who survived and died on the ship, but also to honor the kindness of the citizens of the U.K. who are pictured on the monument providing aid and comfort to those whose lifeboats were thrown against the rocky shores and cliffs of Islay in Scotland.

See Also


  1. Emailed article by/from Marilyn Gahm of Spooner, Wisconsin to Tone. 20170208.